The Mechanization of Japan’s Silk Industry and the Quest for Progress and Civilization, 1870–1880

  • David G. Wittner


In the decade following the Meiji Restoration, Japan embarked on a far-reaching program of industrialization the likes of which the world had never seen before, nor is it ever likely to see again. The Meiji government’s “program of industrialization,” shokusan kōgyō, may, however, be more accurately described as ad hoc industrialization: a series of perfunctory ventures whose only elements of commonality were the adoption of Western industrial technologies that loosely fit within the rhetoric of fukoku kyōhei ideology permissible under the unequal treaties. There was little or no detailed planning involved; schemes were often formulated as problems arose. At Tomioka, the government’s premier silk reeling facility, for example, no one even considered who would work there.1 This lack of planning and foresight was typical of early Japanese efforts at technology transfer and industrial development.


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© David G. Wittner 2005

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  • David G. Wittner

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